Jenine Lurie is Founder and Lead Strategist at Disruptive Experience, a New York based design consultancy that applies unique user-centered design strategies to create intuitive and delightful experiences that connect people to products. She has over 15 years experience building world-class products for global brands such as American Express, Kaplan, Sony Entertainment, Financial Times, IBM, and JPMorgan. In this presentation at ProductTank NYC, Jenine explains how to apply user centered design techniques in a way that creates a “disruption” to ensure that customer needs come first when developing products.
Prioritizing Features is Smart Product Development
Jenine begins by explaining the importance of prioritization with features. You should avoid going ‘feature nuts” or going overboard with defining features. Your mission critical task flow should be identified early on, and you should only be developing things that the user wants and/or needs. If a user doesn’t need something, it shouldn’t be on their screen. You should really understand what the features are for which you are designing, and why.
When working in the design process, you should be thinking about how media is being absorbed. Bigger screens like televisions tend to be used by larger groups of people, while tablets tend to be used by smaller groups of people, and phones tend to be the most focussed experiences with only one user. Understanding these relationships will help you develop your product efficiently.
Something else that should be a part of your design process (and should be considered in your planning phase) is the ecosystem of devices, meaning how devices communicate with each other. Devices are always being synchronized and/or used simultaneously, even without users necessarily noticing. Device shifting is an example of this. Creating seamless moments as you use multiple devices to digest the same media, like for example watching Netflix on your laptop and shifting to your phone to walk somewhere else without losing your spot in the show, is something that designers need to be mindful of.
The Power of Branding and User Interviews
Jenine emphasizes the importance of branding by talking about insurance companies. There really isn’t a lot of differentiation between insurance companies in terms of products offered. That is why branding is so important, because that is all these companies have to stand out from the rest. However, it can be difficult to know how to brand your company or product. One of the ways to address this difficulty is to go out and interview customers.
Jenine explains that a great way to figure out what direction to go with branding products is to ask people who prefer your competition’s product why that is, and you can interview your own users to find out what they like about your product and what concerns they may have about it. What Jenine and her team discovered when working with The Hartford Insurance was that customers prefer reliability, personalization, and 24/7 customer support. With these insights in mind, one can work on building or refining a strategy with the goals of providing insurance products and services that are reliable, personalized, and gives customers acccess to 24/7 customer assistance.
Listen to Stakeholders’ Concerns
Jenine and her team also interviewed stakeholders, and found that overall, they were concerned with how to do things differently, how to stop misinformation, and how to improve customer support. At the end of the day, stakeholders want to look good in front of their bosses and they want to develop innovative ideas. Stakeholders also want to execute those ideas in a manner that is cost efficient and timely. As a consultant, it is important to keep in mind that you have just as much responsibility to the stakeholders as you do the users.
Good UX is Smart Manufacturing
As designers, we need to understand whether or not we are designing something that needs to be designed. Do we need to develop a new solution, or is the solution already there, and do we simply need to understand how users interact with the product to find where the real solution is? Oftentimes, users will find their own solutions within products. Designers need to capitalize on that fact through UX research to understand better how users find solutions.
Jenine has found that using personas (of users, stakeholders, etc.) can be helpful in answering the aforementioned questions, keeping designers and stakeholders honest, and keeping customers pleased. She has at times blown them up (i.e. creating large posters of personas) and hung them on the walls of her studio so that team members are always reminded of who they are aiming to please. These personas can also help to define benchmarks, especially with user stories.
Smart and Sustainable Product Design
There are many cases where businesses have failed to understand the value of building products that customers would actually want to use, while minimizing the cost to design, develop and launch said products. This “want” is essential to the viability and sustainability of any product on the market. To understand the impact of business decisions dealing with sustainability, Jenine uses Samsung and Build-A-Bear as an example.
Samsung has a surplus of products that people are not consuming, which creates a lot of waste. Where Samsung failed is that they did not do enough user experience research to really understand what customers needed, which resulted in Samsung having to spend more money marketing the products that aren’t selling, which is in turn wasting raw materials and money.
Build-A-Bear, on the other hand, uses a different approach by allowing consumers to design their own teddy bears before they are made. Every teddy bear that gets made is already wanted by a consumer, and therefore materials and money are not wasted. Jenine explains that instead of spending so much money on creating branding and selling/marketing/pushing product, you should instead spend money up front on UX research to prove there is a market for your product.
One of the most important parts of Jenine’s “disruptive” process, is simply to have fun. The energy that you put into a product during the design process is usually the energy that gets released. If you’re positive and energetic about a product in development, it is much more likely to be a successful and useful product at launch.
Also, having creative sessions with teams, stakeholders, and clients is very effective because it produces results that everyone can easily understand. Creative sessions within the design process lead to building products that help people work well and in their own way, which leads to maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense, both for the product users and the designers.